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10.1.Verb + Adjective collocations

This section discusses a number of special and more or less fixed combinations of verbs and adjectives, involving the verbs doen'to do', wonen'to live', zien'to look' and a small number of inherently reflexive verbs. We will also discuss a number of idiomatic combinations.

[+]  I.  The verb doen + adjective: gek doen'to act foolish'

The verb doen in (1a) is combined with an adjective, the syntactic function of which is not immediately clear. This gek doen-construction resembles the copular construction in (1b), although the two constructions differ semantically in that the adjective is predicated of the subject itself (Jan is mad) in the copular construction, but expresses something about the subjectʼs behavior (Janʼs behavior is weird) in the doen-construction. In this respect, the gek doen-construction resembles the construction in (1c), which will be discussed in Subsection IV and in which the adjective is used adverbially.

Example 1
a. Jan doet gek.
  Jan does  crazy
  'Jan is acting foolishly.'
b. Jan is gek.
  Jan is crazy
c. Jan gedraagt zich gek.
  Jan behaves  refl  crazy

Since the adjective in the gek doen-construction expresses something about the subjectʼs behavior, the subject must be of the “behaving" type: noun phrases like de jongen'the boy' or mijn computer'my computer' are possible, but not a noun phrase like het boek'the book'; cf. (2a). For the same reason the adjective must express a property that is applicable to a certain kind of behavior; whereas an adjective like raar'weird' in (2a) is fine, an adjective like groot'big' in (2b) is impossible.

Example 2
a. De jongen/Mijn computer/*het boek doet raar.
  the boy/my computer/the book  does  weird
  'The boy/My computer/The book is acting weird.'
b. * De jongen/Mijn computer doet groot.
  the boy/my computer  does  big

An important difference between (1a) and (1c) is that the adjective in the former but not in the latter normally has a negative connotation; cf. (3a). In examples such as (3b), in which the adjective expresses a positively valued property, a special effect arises: it is somehow implied that the behavior of the subject is not sincere or that this behavior is artificial. The adjectives gewoon/normaal'normal' in (3c) are exceptional in that they simply express a state of affairs.

Example 3
a. Jan doet aanstellerig/kinderachtig/onhebbelijk/ongeïnteresseerd/verwaand.
  Jan does  theatrical/childish/unkind/uninterested/arrogant
  'Jan is acting theatrical/...'
b. Jan doet aardig/beleefd/vriendelijk/lief/vertrouwelijk.
  Jan does  nice/polite/friendly/kind/intimate
  'Jan is acting kindly/politely/friendly/kindly/intimately (but he isnʼt sincere).'
c. Jan/mijn computer doet eindelijk weer gewoon/normaal.
  Jan/mu computer  does  finally  again  normal
  'Finally, Jan/my computer is acting normally again.'

That the gek doen-constructions in (3a) have a negative connotation is also clear from the fact that the collocations typically occur in negative imperatives with the modifier zo: whereas the negative imperatives in (4a) are fine, their positive counterparts are generally impossible (although they may occur as stage directions if z o is not present). The positively valued adjectives in (4b&c) behave like their declarative counterparts in (3): the constructions in (4b) imply that the behavior of the subject is insincere or at least artificial, whereas the constructions with gewoon/normaal'normal' in (4c) are more neutral and simply express a state of affairs.

Example 4
a. Doe niet zo aanstellerig/kinderachtig/onhebbelijk/ongeïnteresseerd/verwaand!
  do  not  so theatrical/childish/unkind/uninterested/arrogant
  'Donʼt act so theatrical/...!'
a'. * Doe (zo) aanstellerig/kinderachtig/onhebbelijk/ongeïnteresseerd/verwaand!
b. Doe niet zo aardig/beleefd/vriendelijk/lief/vertrouwelijk!
  do  not  so nice/polite/friendly/kind/intimately
  'Donʼt act so kindly/... (as you arenʼt sincere anyway).'
b'. * Doe (zo) aardig/beleefd/vriendelijk/lief/vertrouwelijk!
c. ? Doe niet zo gewoon/normaal (de anderen zijn al saai genoeg)!
  do  not  so normal   the others  are  already  boring enough
  'Donʼt act so normal! (other people are boring enough as it is).'
c'. Doe gewoon/normaal!
  do  normal

      The primeless examples in (5) show that adjectives in the declarative gek doen-construction can be modified by means of an intensifier and be input for comparative/superlative formation, whereas the primed examples show that this is impossible in the negative imperative constructions; the latter is probably due to the obligatory presence of the modifier zo.

Example 5
a. Jan doet zeer/vrij vreemd.
  Jan does  very/rather  weird
a'. Doe niet zo (*zeer/vrij) vreemd!
   do  not  so  very/rather  weird
b. Jan doet nog vreemder dan Els.
  Jan does  even  weirder  than Els
b'. * Doe niet zo vreemder!
   do  not  so  weirder
c. Jan doet het vreemdst.
  Jan does  the weirdest
c'. * Doe niet zo het vreemdst!
   do  not  so  the weirdest

Remarkably, the comparative form makes it possible for the combination doen + adjective to enter the positive imperative: the examples in (6) show that if we are dealing with a majorative form, the adjectives must denote a positively valued property. Furthermore, the negative connotation we find in the constructions in (3b) does not arise; insofar as the examples in (6a) are possible, the adjectives actually receive a positive connotation.

Example 6
a. ?? Doe eens wat aanstelleriger/kinderachtiger/onhebbelijker ...!
  do  prt  a bit  more theatrical/childish/unkind
b. Doe eens wat aardiger/beleefder/vriendelijker/liever/vertrouwelijker!
  do  prt  somewhat  nicer/politer/friendlier/kinder/more.intimately
  'Act a bit nicer/more polite/...!'

Minorative forms of the adjective must express a negatively valued property; the imperative constructions in (7b) have a negative connotation if they are used as commands, although the same strings can also be used more neutrally as advice.

Example 7
a. Doe eens wat minder aanstellerig/kinderachtig/onhebbelijk ...!
  do  prt  a.bit  less  theatrical/childish/unkind
b. Doe eens wat minder aardig/beleefd/vriendelijk/lief/vertrouwelijk!
  do  prt  a.bit  less  nice/polite/friendly/kind/intimately

      Finally, observe that doen + zo A mogelijk can appear both in declarative and positive imperative constructions; such constructions need not have a negative connotation.

Example 8
a. Ik doe altijd zo vriendelijk/aardig/beleefd mogelijk.
  do  always  as friendly/nice/polite  as.possible
  'Iʼm always as friendly as possible.'
b. Doe zo vriendelijk/aardig/beleefd mogelijk.
  do  as friendly/nice/polite  as.possible
  'Be as friendly as possible.'
[+]  II.  The verb wonen'to live'+ adjective

The verb wonen'to live' is generally combined with a locational PP, as in (9).

Example 9
a. Jan woont in Tilburg/bij zijn grootouders.
  Jan lives  in Tilburg/with his grandparents
b. Jan woont in een comfortabel huis/in een mooie omgeving.
  Jan lives  in a comfortable house/in a nice surrounding

The verb wonen can, however, also be accompanied by an adjectival phrase, in which case the adjective generally denotes a property of the house or the surroundings that the subject of the clause lives in. Example (10a) expresses that Jan has a comfortable/small/cozy house, and (10b) expresses that he lives in a beautiful/rural environment. Occasionally, the adjective just indicates a place and is hence functionally equivalent to a locational PP: (10c) does not express that Jan lives in a high/low house/surrounding, but that his apartment is situated high/low in a building.

Example 10
a. Jan woont comfortabel/klein/gezellig.
  Jan lives  comfortably/small/cozy
b. Jan woont mooi/landelijk.
  Jan lives  beautifully/rural
c. Jan woont hoog/laag.
  Jan lives  high/low

It is not immediately clear what the syntactic function of the PPs and AP in (9) and (10) is. They are often called complements because the verb normally cannot occur without them, but it may just as well be that they are adverbial adjuncts and that their obligatory presence is due to the fact that the expressed thought is simply not sufficiently informative without the information provided by them; see Section V3.2.2.4 for evidence that supports the adjunct analysis.

[+]  III.  The verb zien'to look' + adjective

The use of the combination zien + adjective is very restricted. The (a)-examples in (11) show that the verb zien can only occur with color adjectives and adjectives like bleek'pale' and grauw'ashen'; adjectives like vriendelijk'friendly' gek'crazy' or lang'tall' are excluded. The adjectives normally denote a property of (some subpart of) an animate entity and can normally be modified by an intensifier and undergo comparative formation. The English translations in (11) show that the subject of the adjective is normally interpreted toto pro pars; it is, e.g., Janʼs complexion that the property denoted by the adjective is attributed to.

Example 11
a. Jan ziet geel/bleek/grauw.
  Jan  looks  yellow/pale/ashen
  'Janʼs face looks yellow/pale/ashen.'
a'. * Jan ziet vriendelijk/gek/lang.
  Jan  looks  friendly/weird/tall
b. Jan ziet erg/vrij/te geel/bleek/grauw.
  Jan  looks  very/rather/too  yellow/pale/ashen
  'Janʼs face looks very/rather/too yellow/pale/ashen.'
c. Jan ziet geler/bleker/grauwer dan gisteren.
  Jan  looks  more yellow/paler/ashen  than  yesterday
  'Janʼs face looks more yellow/paler/ashen than yesterday.'

The adjectives not only belong to a limited class, they must also refer to a transitory property. Generic statements about, e.g., the color of the skin are not possible by means of this zien + A construction. This is illustrated in (12): whereas we can express the (false) generalization that all frogs are yellow by means of the copular construction in (12a), this is not possible by means of the zien + adjective combination in (12a'); and, whereas we need not take into account in the copular construction in (12b) that chameleons can change color, this is implied by (12b').

Example 12
a. Kikkers zijn geel.
  frogs  are  yellow
a'. * Kikkers zien geel.
  frogs  look  yellow
b. Deze kameleon is geel.
  this chameleon  is yellow
b'. Deze kameleon ziet geel.
  this chameleon  looks  yellow

Some more or less idiomatic examples of the zien + A construction are given in (13). Observe that they contain a van-PP that expresses the cause of the transitory property; see Section 3.5, sub I, for a more extensive discussion of this PP. Example (13c) is special in that the subject does not refer to (a subpart of) an animate being.

Example 13
a. Mijn handen zien blauw van de kou.
  my hands  look blue  of the cold
b. Jan ziet groen van afgunst.
  Jan looks  green  of envy
c. De kamer ziet blauw van de rook.
  the room  looks  blue  of  the (cigarette) smoke

      The zien + A constructions in (11) resemble the constructions in (14). They differ, however, in that the latter contain the pronominal PP er ... uit. Since this PP cannot be replaced by some other PP such as daaruit or uit + NP, it is clear that er uit zien is a fixed expression.

Example 14
a. Hij ziet er geel/bleek/grauw uit.
  he  looks  there  yellow/pale/ashen  out
b. Hij ziet er erg/vrij/te geel/bleek/grauw uit.
  he  looks  there  very/rather/too  yellow/pale/ashen  out
c. Hij ziet er geler/bleker/grauwer uit dan gisteren.
  he  looks  there  more yellow/pale/ashen  out  than  yesterday

On closer inspection, the two constructions turn out to exhibit totally different behavior. First, the adjective is not restricted to the class of color adjectives in the er A uit zien construction. The adjectives in (11a') are perfectly acceptable if the PP er ... uit is added.

Example 15
Hij ziet er vriendelijk/gek/lang uit.
  he  looks  there  friendly/weird/long out
'Heʼs looking friendly/weird/long.'

Second, the adjective need not express a transitory property; generic statements are possible in this construction, as will become clear by comparing (16) to (12a').

Example 16
Kikkers zien er geel uit.
  frogs  look  there  yellow  out

Third, the sequence er A uit zien can enter into the syntactic frames er uit zien alsof pronoun + A + copular in (17a), whereas this is not possible for the sequence zien + A. This contrast may be related to the fact, illustrated by the (b)-examples, that eruit zien, but not zien, can be followed by an als-phrase of comparison.

Example 17
a. Hij ziet er uit alsof hij ziek is.
  he  looks  there  out  as.if  he  ill  is
a'. * Hij ziet alsof hij ziek is.
b. Hij ziet er uit als een tweederangs acteur.
  he  looks  there  out  as  a second.rate actor
b'. * Hij ziet als een tweederangs acteur.

Finally, the zien + A construction implies that the subject indeed has the property denoted by the adjective, whereas this need not be the case in the er A uit zien construction. This can be illustrated by means of contextualizing the examples in (18). While looking at a picture of Jan, someone can say something like (18b) without contradicting himself. Example (18a), on the other hand, would be a contradiction. The primed examples show that, in this respect, the combination zien + adjective resembles the copula zijn'to be', whereas the er A uit zien instead resembles the copula lijken'to seem'.

Example 18
a. # Jan ziet bleek, maar hij is feitelijk hartstikke bruin.
  Jan looks pale  but  he  is actually  very tanned
a'. # Jan is bleek, maar hij is feitelijk hartstikke bruin.
  Jan is pale  but  he  is actually  very tanned
b. Jan ziet er bleek uit, maar hij is feitelijk hartstikke bruin.
  Jan looks  there  pale out  but  he  is actually  very  tanned
  'Jan looks pale, but actually heʼs quite tanned.'
b'. Jan lijkt bleek, maar hij is feitelijk hartstikke bruin.
  Jan seems  pale  but  he  is actually  very  tanned
  'Jan seems pale, but actually heʼs quite tanned.'
[+]  IV.  Inherently reflexive constructions

Some fixed combinations of verbs and adjectives function as inherently reflexive verbs. The reflexive zich in (19), for example, can neither be replaced by a full noun phrase, such as Jan, nor by the full reflexive form zichzelf. In this respect these cases differ from structurally comparable, but non-inherently reflexive constructions; cf. Section V2.5.2.

Example 19
a. Hij voelt zich/*zichzelf goed.
  he  feels  refl/himself   well
  'Heʼs feeling fine.'
b. Hij gedraagt zich/*zichzelf goed.
  he  behaves  refl/himself  well
  'Heʼs behaving well.'
[+]  V.  Idioms

Some fixed combinations of verbs and adjectives are idiomatic. This is most conspicuously the case with color adjectives. Some examples are given in (20). The adjective zwart is typically used to refer to situations in which one is not paying what he owes. The adjective grijs is recently introduced to refer to situations in which one is not paying what he owes in full.

Example 20
a. zwart werken
  black work
c. zwart rijden
  black drive
  'to use public transport without paying'
b. zwart kijken
  black watch
  'watching without paying'
c'. grijs rijden
  grey drive
  'to use public transport without paying fully'

The combination zwart + V refers to an illegal act. It is therefore not surprising that wit'white' can be used in the resultative construction in (21), which refers to the activity of making money that is obtained illegally (seemingly) legal. Another fixed combination that has to do with money, is rood staan. This use has its origin in the fact that banks used to print deficits on an account in red.

Example 21
a. geld wit wassen
  money  white  wash
  'money laundering'
b. Jan staat rood.
  Jan stands  red
  'Janʼs account is in the red.'

Other idiomatic combinations of verbs and adjectives are given in (22). The examples in (22a&b) are no longer semantically transparent: the verb bakeren'to nourish' and the adjective bekaaid'disappointed' are no longer used. Example (22c) involves an absolute met-construction.

Example 22
a. heet gebakerd zijn
  hot  nourished  be
  'to be hot-tempered'
c. met de billen bloot komen
  with  the buttocks  nude  come
  'to disclose the state of oneʼs affairs'
b. ergens bekaaid afkomen
  'to have the worst of it'

A case such as (23a) seems to involve metaphorical language use rather than an idiom; example (23b) shows that the more literal meaning of the unit vastlopen is “to get stuck/jam".

Example 23
a. De onderhandelingen liepen vast.
  the negotiations  went  stuck
  'The negotiations reached a deadlock.'
b. De machine liep vast.
  the machine went  stuck
  'The machine jammed.'